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Buddies Cafe in Ooty. This cafe is the largest tea room in India, which features over 220 varieties of tea: artisanal and hand-crafted single-origin teas, orthodox blends, tisanes, and CTC dust. When I first entered the cafe, Nirmal Raj stood next to a wall of transparent glass tea canisters and opened them enthusiastically to allow customers to inhale as he spoke animatedly about each tea. After leaving my non-heated hostel, I chanced upon the cafe, searching for a warmer place to write from. As a shoestring budget backpacker, I had traveled to the Nilgiris tea-growing region on an overnight bus from Bengaluru, India, and soon found myself returning daily to Buddies Cafe.
Immersive tours are a remarkable equalizer, bridging the gap between seasoned tea connoisseurs and novices. Through shared experiences of plucking tea leaves alongside local farmers, crafting their blends, and witnessing the alchemy of leaf to cup, they forge bonds that go beyond language and cultural barriers.
That Bengalis love tea is now legendary and in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, tea is part of the social and cultural fabric. Our Chai Trail series takes readers up close and personal to the tea culture across India, and this story is a peek into the Bengali homes and the place that tea has in their lives.
India's remarkably diverse tea lands are the perfect destination for holiday vacationers. The cool hill stations in the Nilgiris in South India, the gentle slopes of Assam, and the rugged, picturesque gardens of North India each offer a unique tea culture and cuisine.
If you drive 250 kilometers west of Bangalore, India, you reach Sakleshpur, where the coffee country begins. And sitting here amongst the coffee estates is a tea garden called Kadamane. And that itself seemed reason enough to book a stay.
Badaga food from the tea-growing Nilgiri mountains is distinctive from all other Indian tea-inspired cuisines. Tourists drawn to South India are fascinated by the stories of this indigenous tribe that has lived in the Blue Mountains for centuries.
Parsis call tea choi, not chai, cha, or tea, but choi. Choi was never, ever consumed on its own. There were always Bhakras, the soft cookies made with dough fermented using palm toddy, or chaapat, a flat, mildly sweet pancake. For special occasions, ghaari - thick dough discs filled with a mixture of bananas cooked in ghee, dates cooked till gooey, or a sweet dal paste were served.
The aroma of sweet tea wafts through the air, that weary trekkers like us respond eagerly to. Over the years, I have taken to stopping by the teahouses on my treks, even if for a brief pause.
Stay in a restored bungalow originally built in 1910 and once the residence of the Nepali royal family. It offers 12 exquisitely decorated and spacious suites, each named for an historical figure attached to the estate.
Experience a holiday in the tea gardens and hotels near Darjeeling where lodging is an indulgence, with old-world charm and gorgeous vistas.
Consumers who experience the origin, terroir, and processing of the leaves in the cup can engage more deeply by visiting tea-growing regions to learn about tea. Visiting origin forever alters one’s relationship to tea. But before delving into the myriad tour options it is important to reflect on how our actions may impact others. Namely, while simultaneously seeking an authentic, hands-on tea tour, one must also consider which programs are sustainable and respectfully engage the host culture(s).